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Sunday
August, 7

A feast for the eyes and inspiration file at Longwood

Last spring a trip to Pennsylvania provided inspiration that I continue to draw on now, especially on these cold winter days. I consider my visit at Chanticleer Garden to be the most influential garden tour I’ve ever taken, but just the day before I was at Longwood Gardens and it was no less inspiring. 

In my humble opinion, although these two gardens are geographically close to one another, they are very different in feel. Whereas Chanticleer felt like a kindred spirit to my own garden (although obviously much, much better), Longwood felt almost like a fantasy. Its miles of glass conservatories, which would be stunning even if they were empty, are full of the most amazing abundance of colorful plants I’ve ever seen. 

Outside of the conservatories are imposing and impressive topiaries and of course Longwood’s famous fountains. I’ll be honest, the fountains do nothing for me. I was quite happy when our study tour paused to watch a few minutes of the fountain show because it gave me a chance to pop back into the conservatory to get a better look at some of plants I’d only gotten a glimpse of.

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I hate to say it, but I was far more interested in those amazing boxwoods in the orangerie boxes than I was in the fountains for which Longwood is known.

With the feast-for-the-eyes plant combinations, everywhere I looked at Longwood I saw container inspiration, including along this bright border featuring thousands of ‘Canary Wings’ begonias.

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Here’s a closer look.

I haven’t grown anything in a hanging basket for about a decade but this could change a person’s mind. These enormous—I mean enormous—baskets were planted with Streptocarpus ‘Concord Blue’. Those ivy-covered columns aren’t so shabby either.

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I don’t think I ever would have dreamed up a combination like this, but it’s all genius, especially that grass, which may be ‘Toffee Twist’ carex or something similar.

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I wish I had a better photo of this next combination (so many of these photos were snapped during a work day presentation, so I felt like I was running by them). What I love about this is that it is so good and so full of color, but there is only one flower in it, a frilly petunia. Stromanthe triostar, Plectranthus ‘Silver Shield’ and a heuchera provide most of the color here. 

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The importance of water in the display was not to overlooked. Here, huge hanging baskets of ‘Canary Wings’ begonias float over a flooded floor with planters full of tree ferns. It was sublime.

I was completely charmed with this fountain wall. So much so that I may or may not have jumped over a barrier where they were setting up for an event to grab this photo.

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Longwood has a famous water lily collection, but I favored this pool of more moderate sized plants and a few other plants mixed in.

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Before I take you outside, there are a couple plants I took note of. This lemon geranium was stunning, with the tiniest leaves I’ve ever seen on a scented geranium. I’ve found other scented geraniums that claim to be lemon, but they don’t look like this one. If you’ve seen this somewhere, let me know, because I want it!

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This orchid! I mean, my gosh it is just unbelievable. This is Promenaea crawshayana ‘Longwood’s Gilded Globe’. 

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This view of what I think are ivy-covered columns is like a sneak peek at Utopia. 

I can’t quite remember the circumstances behind this photo, but I think it may have been in a dry garden. I remember it being insanely hot in here, but I loved this very natural planting with the structure of that empty urn in the middle. 

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Longwood’s green wall is well known and you can see why. I could have studied this for hours. Talk about a lesson in texture.

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I loved the restraint in this garden backed by a hedge. Just nepeta and irises.

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I’m pretty sure this is what Eden looks like. And keep in mind, this was early in the season. Just imagine how this might look with a month or two more growth on it. And those banana trees make me positively jealous.

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This was a master class in grouping containers.

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This is the exact moment I decided I liked Celosia. This is ‘Flamingo Feather’.

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And of course I fell in love with this clematis draped on this stone wall. That’s heaven right there, folks.

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Longwood was not a garden that I could look at a section of and aspire to have it in my own garden. I’m not sure it’s meant to be that kind of garden. To me, Longwood is meant to inspire, not meant to replicate. It was awe-inspiring and so many pieces of it sparked so many ideas. 

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